Category Archives: Holidays

Bauble Attrition

Caught in the act: one cat, attempting to stockpile Christmas tree baubles for personal, nefarious use. The war of bauble attrition has begun, and I do not expect to win.

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The First Day of Christmas

Apparently, America has set an official date for the advent of the Christmas season and made sure to inform all relevant parties, including the weather. I woke up this morning to find my dear husband trundling back and forth carrying large boxes and trailing tinsel, while snowflakes flurried from his beard and festive songs blared from the television. Apparently, it is now Yule.

In England, we’re not really sure when Christmas begins. If you ask the supermarkets, they’ll tell you it’s somewhere around May, when there’s empty space on the shelves where the Easter eggs used to be. If you ask the tellybox advertisers, it’s approximately September, when the first twig of holly sneaks into an ad break. If you ask my family, it’s a vague date in mid-December when the panic shopping begins and someone remembers the tree. If you ask me, it’s about December 19, when I suddenly discover I have once again missed the last day of post and won’t be sending any cards. Again.

Consequently, I’ve always found it quite a challenge to get into the Christmas spirit. There’s a tipping point between ‘far too early’ and ‘too late to do things properly’, a single moment when it feels right to have festive feelings. The rest of the time, I’m not entirely sure if it’s Christmas or not – although I do suffer a vague knot of worry throughout December regarding wrapping paper.

In America, on the other hand, Christmas begins as Thanksgiving ends, making the latter holiday a handy indicator for the former. As soon as you’re done shovelling turkey into your mouth, it’s time to send someone out to the garage to fetch the tree and start checking Amazon for gift-giving bargains, while the snow begins to dutifully fall.

This is a regimen I wholeheartedly approve of: I can now schedule my season, confident in the knowledge I haven’t got it wrong. Although I will inevitably still fail to send out Christmas cards in time.

It also gives the cat a full month to steal all the baubles, a challenge she accepted less than a minute after the tree was finished.


Not Enough Love In My Heart

The shops around here are packed with Valentine’s cards – massive piles of them, some taller than my head. This is wonderful, as there’s, obviously, never too much love in the world, but the one thing I don’t understand is this: why are they being sold in bulk?

Are they for slutty people?

Are we meant to buy a pack now to keep us going for the next 25 years, and hope our significant other isn’t very observant?

Is it in case I keep buggering up the signature?

I’m told it’s largely for schoolkids, who like to give cards to their whole class, which is a new one on me. Where I’m from, you pick a Valentine, based on such criteria as “nice eyes” and “unusually patient” and run with it, and eyebrows are raised meaningfully should you be purchasing two cards. Clinton’s Cards have a policy whereby three or more Valentine cards hit the counter at once and it triggers the alarm button.

There is a certain sweetness in the befuddlement of it all, but don’t get me started on the Twilight-themed packs I saw. The horror.

On an even sweeter note, this picture is doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, and is especially heartstring-pulling if the associated story – that he told the photographer his wife died of cancer three years ago but he still buys her a card and roses to remind her she’s his only one – is true. Now there’s, for me, the true meaning of Valentine.

Two years ago yesterday, I got engaged to Hubby. At a keyboard, 5000 miles apart, after a frank and practical discussion of whether it was the best option for our (then) long-distance relationship. The proper proposal came a couple of months later, when he was in England, but it will still be a very difficult Valentine to top.

 


So is it mainly fairies and princesses?

Yesterday we celebrated our fourth Christmas of the year. An excessive number by any cultural standard, but in our case they were a necessary evil: we spent the actual day in England, with my familial bits and pieces, which meant that we were legally required to repeat the process with Hubby’s matching set upon our return.

We had no choice but to also schedule in our own, private Christmas morning, because otherwise we couldn’t have dedicated a morning to the celebration of toys and candy, and, yesterday, we started all over again with my sister-in-law and her family.

This particular branch of my new hoarde of family members includes my 7-year-old niece, of whom I am uncompromisingly fond. We found some excellent gifts for her while we were in England, but nothing to compare to the goodie bag my mother put together. One suspects she is yearning for grandchildren.

A vial of fairy dust, Disney princess eau de toilette, a tiara emblazoned with the word “Princess”, a crown pendant on a golden necklace, bubbles with fairy artwork on the bottle… these, and many more, were stuffed lovingly into her gift bag. It was awesome, and I was inappropriately jealous.

Several hours after opening her presents, my niece wandered over to me, tiara a bit cock-eyed and eye-wateringly overscented with child-friendly perfume. “So, in England,” she enquired, matter-of-factly, “Is it mainly fairies and princesses?”

“Kate Middleton and Graham Norton,” whispered my husband, without missing a beat, and, for a moment there, my pride in his cultural immersion almost overwhelmed his point.

“Yes,” I replied, upon consideration. “In England, that’s almost all we have.”


A Good Time for a Resolution

It’s the new year, as you might have noticed, and I’m told that’s an excellent time for a resolution. I decided, while suffering from “being on a plane”, 15 hours into a 24-hour journey back from England, having not slept for almost two days, with my arse wedged into the least comfortable seat in airline history (an achievement in itself), that mine shall be thus:

I shall hereby cease to be a lazy blogger.

The first person to mention that I’ve waited until halfway through the month to begin my resolution, which is very lazy of me, gets one of those annoying party whistles up the nose.

Resolution 2: I shall hereby begin using American grammar and spellings. Not quite yet, though. Soon. Maybe in the next post. I’m still partly convinced that, if I can only sneak in a few extra vowels and properly placed commas now and then, I can infect the United States with Proper Grammar. My editor at the newspaper has yet to agree, but that’s a minor obstacle.

Resolution 3: I shall hereby learn to properly use the spanking new camera we returned from England with and cease posting shots of a blurred cat on an indeterminate surface. Just as soon as I’ve finished reading the instruction manual and have worked out what the difference between setting P and setting S is.

Regarde!

See? You can totally tell she’s sat on Hubby’s work bench. You just probably don’t care.

I am resolute and determined… bring on the year.

 


Independent Eating

 

The Fourth of July weekend is about to begin, and I am excited to be joining in as a sort-of-American. It seems somehow fitting that my first holiday as an honorary citizen will be the one that celebrates breaking away from England. Fitting in a melancholy way.

As an outsider, Independence Day is not yet ingrained in my brain as a holiday. It did, however, get my full attention when I came across this display in the grocery store.

Never mind the trays of mini-muffins and the frankly amazing cakes (you can’t see from the picture, but there’s an eagle made of icing on the other side). What caught my eye was the cookie. Yes, that tray in the foreground is one giant cookie. With chocolate chips. And icing. And twinkly bits. It’s the size of a dinner plate, and then some.

I’m sure it’s intended for sharing, but frankly I’m not that generous. I am much more inclined to add it to my Perfect Morning Wishlist: I should very much like, one day, to wake up in a tent made of pizza sheets, with a giant cookie pillow, and have ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE but to eat my way out.

That is my American Dream.


Happy Easter!

Happy chocolate and bunnies day to all, on every which side of the oceans! I am pleased to report that Easter on this side of the pond did not disappoint, and was as full of face-stuffing and spring cheer as could be wished.

I did note one or two differences, however. Over here, you can buy empty plastic eggs to stuff yourself, and various candies with which to do so. This appears to be the norm, while larger fare tends to come either by itself or with toys. I like this tradition – I chose to fill my eggs with homemade candy and presented a large percentage of the local population with bags filled with white chocolate truffles, milk chocolate truffles, dark chocolate orange truffles, chocolate-covered caramels (which, as previously discussed, is really toffee) and toffee (aka Dime bars).

In England, we seem to have a more rigid idea of what makes a good Easter egg gift. While we do have smaller eggs for hunt purposes, our most popular brands package large hollow eggs with either a small selection of chocolate inside them or, for the larger options, with a few bars of the appropriate candy. Occasionally you’ll get a mug or other random sundry, but toys are limited to the insides of Kinder Eggs (which, for those who’ve never experienced the joy of one, are hollow eggs with a self-assembly toy inside). These eggs are these days shunted onto supermarket shelves as soon the Christmas wrapping paper is packed away.

Hubby, bless him, searched high and low and eventually found an egg-plus-chocolates gift for me. Not only that, it was a Cadbury egg. Not only that, it was full of Mini Eggs, my very favourite Easter treat. And not only that, he topped it off with a dozen mini Creme Eggs, the chocolate I would call my favourite Easter treat had Cadbury not cottoned on to their popularity and made them available for six months of the year, while still fooling us all into thinking they’ll go away soon. My Easter is complete.

Chocolate aside, we had a lovely day in the sunshine with the family, eating delicious roast turkey with all the trimmings and S’Mores by the firepit. This was a novelty for me, as my history of Easter meals is sketchy at best. Mother, who to this day doesn’t quite know what she was thinking, once served rabbit pie. Yes, my mother made me eat the Easter Bunny. And this year, she tells me, she served this: